During the New England Patriots’ Oct. 2 loss, cameras caught head coach Bill Belichick throwing a Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Belichick was justifiably upset with his players’ performance, but there may have been more to the story.
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On a conference call this week, the usually tightlipped coach went on a five-minute rant about how much he dislikes the Surface tablets the NFL provides teams for use on the sidelines. Belichick said he plans to return to using printed pictures, because tablet-related issues hinder the productivity of coaching staff and players — in turn hurting the team on the field.
“I’m done with the tablets,” Belichick said. “They’re just too undependable for me. … There’s no consistency to it.”
Microsoft paid $400 million to get the Surface in front of the league’s huge (but declining) audience as the “official tablet of the NFL.” So naturally, both organizations released statements defending the device’s performance and reliability.
But any organization with tablet users needs these devices to function properly. One of the major draws for tablets in the enterprise is that they are portable, so frequent travelers and field workers can easily work out of the office. If users run into problems like Belichick experienced, however, a big benefit of the tablet is lost. Users who need to give presentations on the road, for example, could lose last-minute changes if network connectivity isn’t strong and the edits don’t save.
The NFL only gives teams the tablets a few hours before each game, so the IT department does not have much time to identify issues with the devices, Belichick said. In most organizations, that simply wouldn’t fly. IT pros must constantly monitor tablet usage to make sure the devices are up to date in terms of security and the necessary apps business users need. They should also have a plan for how to access and troubleshoot remote users’ tablets in case there is a problem.
All of this comes at a time when some experts say tablets are poised to overtake traditional PCs and laptops in the enterprise. The Surface Pro 4 and Apple’s iPad Pro are designed with business users in mind, for instance. At this point, though — at least for Belichick — a tablet can’t quite keep up with the old-school approach.